VSO_Bangladesh
Martin Rixham
Martin Rixham Software Engineer

What's New Tue 5th February, 2019

Building software in Bangladesh

Back in October, we wrote about going to Bangladesh to contribute to VSO’s Growing Together program. Since then we’ve been busy planning, and later this month we fly to Dhaka to start in earnest.

As one of those who’ll be representing Equal Experts in Bangladesh, I thought I’d give my point of view as well as a bit more detail about what we’ll be doing when we’re there.

For most of us this will be the first time in South Asia and as anyone who has been to that part of the world knows, the climate, the food and the culture can all take a little getting used to. I’m in the fortunate position of having spent some time in other South Asian countries, including the Bengali-speaking parts of India, so I have some idea of what to expect. Having said that, trying to work as a software developer in a non-English speaking, developing country will certainly be a new experience for me.

Induction

When we arrive in Dhaka we’ll initially go through induction with VSO where we’ll get the benefit of their experience doing field work and perhaps some basic language skills. After that we’ll take an internal flight to Rangpur in the north of Bangladesh where we’ll meet some of the local stakeholders and start getting to know the area.

We’ll then spend a few days being hosted by farming families. We’ll stay in the villages where the farmers live and try to meet as many people as possible to get their points of view about what we’re doing and the wider project. This will be the real opportunity to get to know some of the people we’re trying to help and perhaps challenge some of our assumptions.

A technical solution

Back in Rangpur we’ll bring together the information we’ve gathered and implement an initial product based on our current understanding of the problem. Ideally we’ll have time to get some people using what we build and giving us the feedback we’ll need to improve the product. Finally we’ll fly back to Dhaka where we’ll wrap things up before heading back to London.

Laying out our itinerary like this probably obscures the fact that we don’t really know what will happen when we get there, which interactions will prove fruitful and which won’t, or exactly what problems we’ll identify when we’re there. Of course that’s why we’re going; to have the experiences and make the connections that will enable us to make a genuine contribution. The important thing is to not take too many assumptions with us. These are real people’s lives that they’re already living more successfully than we ever could, so if we’re going help them at all it will only be by listening carefully and trying to understand their problems as they see them.

A real opportunity to help

Speaking to people at VSO, I get the impression that the idea of applying technology to development projects has not been tried much before. As with anything new there’s a chance that it won’t succeed, but if we demonstrate that an engagement like this can be successful then the opportunity is there to not just help one community in Bangladesh but to start to develop a model that could be applicable in other countries and environments. I think that’s really exciting. It’s exciting that Equal Experts is getting involved at this nascent stage and I personally feel lucky to be part of it.

We’ll be following this post up with an update, so do check back to the Equal Experts blog to find out what we’ve learned, and how we get on. We can’t wait to get started.